(Grain, Refined-Sugar & Dairy Free) Chocolate Cake
My Fourth of July was spent in a manner most likely similar to that of most of my fellow Americans: with friends and family, out in the sunshine, eating myself confidently and without hesitation into a food coma. It was a wonderful time.
I hadn’t planned to cook or bake anything, and for the most part I didn’t. My mom slaved away in the kitchen during the afternoon to prepare a grilled feast for ten while I laid on the beach like the lazy sea anemones that surrounded me. I did however manage to pull through with dessert (surprise, surprise).
I wanted to make something my older sister, who has Crohn’s disease and whose stomach doesn’t do well with any sort of refined sugars, flours, dairy (besides yogurt or butter), and almost all types of grains and starches. Doesn’t sound like it leaves much, does it? The specific diet she follows is SCD, or specific-carbohydrate diet, if you’re familiar with those terms. Anyway I always try and bookmark recipes that look good and that are what I have come to call “Melissa-friendly” when I find any on the internet. I came across a recipe for a “paleo” chocolate snack cake at the blog Paleo Spirit, and I instantly knew that the moist-looking yet not too dense chocolate cake was something I had to save for a weekend when Melissa was home.
I was, however, a little nervous to be unarmed with my usual trusty standbys of refined white sugar and white flour. So I did what any normal person would do, and made a back-up, in the form of this key lime pie (always so good). Even when I finished the cake and had it displayed on my cake pedestal, I warned guests that it was little “experimental,” that it was sweetened naturally with honey and dates and that its only dry ingredients were cocoa powder and coconut flour. Up until the end, I had my doubts.
Lo and behold, every guest had a slice of both the pie and cake, and every one of them kept telling me how the cake tasted “just like normal chocolate cake.” But I kind of disagree. I liked it, liked it a lot, but it didn’t taste like your classic, dense yet smooth and intensely chocolate loaf cake (similar to this one here—and surprise! my first real blog post ever.) This cake is moist, tender, but the chocolate flavor is less forward. It’s sweet, but it has that more natural and heavy taste from the natural sweeteners of honey and dates. I guess what I’m trying to say is that it’s different, but neither worse nor better.
(The moral for me here may be that I sometimes need to stop trying to place everything as either good or bad, better or best or worse. Sometimes food is just what it is, and I shouldn’t obsess over finding just the “right” version of something. Something to keep note.)
Anyway, if you have specific diet needs, like say you can’t process white flour very well, or don’t stomach any heavy refined sugars, give this cake a try in place of your regular classic chocolate cake counterpart. If you don’t have any of those needs, try out this cake if you’re looking for something a little less heavy, a little more “healthy,” and a little less cloyingly simple and straightforwardly sweet. I especially loved the leftovers the next day, from the fridge. A damp and moist piece of chocolate cake as an afternoon snack? Don’t mind if I do, labels and presumptions set aside.
SCD Chocolate Cake (Grain-Free, Dairy-Free, Refined Sugar-Free)
Adapted slightly from Paleo Spirit
Serves 8 to 12
1/2 cup coconut flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch-processed)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
14 pitted medjool dates
1/4 cup honey
1 cup of unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, very soft
1 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup drip coffee or water
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9-inch springform pan with butter and line with parchment paper. Whisk together the coconut flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt until combined. Set aside.
Puree the dates in a food processor until completely smooth, about 20 to 30 seconds. The amount of date puree should total about 3/4 of a cup. Add the honey and applesauce and continue to puree until it creates a thoroughly combined and smooth mixture, about another 20 to 30 seconds.
Transfer the date-applesauce mixture to the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix in the soft butter until combined. Continuing on a low speed, add the eggs, one at a time, and then the vanilla and coffee. Mix until smooth and well combined—it’s okay if the mixture looks a little curdled almost, it’ll smooth out soon enough.
On low speed, sprinkle the dry ingredients into the wet mixture, and mix, making sure to scrape down the sides, until the batter is smooth. The texture should be stiff, similar to that of a brownie batter.
Pour into the prepared pan and gently smooth out the top. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. The cake may look moist and maybe even unfinished, but if the toothpick is clean, take the cake out. Let cool completely. I like it served best chilled.